Former World No.1 Angelique Kerber prevailed in a rip-roaring battle at Wimbledon, fending off an incredible effort by Sara Sorribes Tormo to win their second-round encounter, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
2018 Wimbledon champion Kerber needed three hours and 18 minutes to get past the World No.50 from Spain and move into the third round of Wimbledon for the eighth time in her career. The battle is the eighth-longest match of the season thus far.
In a match filled with lengthy, creative rallies, No.25 seed Kerber of Germany came out on top, continuing the grass-court form which led her to her first title in three years just last week on her home-soil lawns in Bad Homburg.
But Sorribes Tormo, who won her first WTA singles title earlier this year in Guadalajara, showed off her fantastic early-season form throughout, saving a match point in the second set before pushing Kerber all the way down to the wire in the decider.
The match was decided by Kerber's one extra service break, which came in the final game of the clash at love. Kerber took advantage by winning half of Sorribes Tormo's first-service points, but the Spaniard was much better at winning second-service points, claiming half of hers, compared to Kerber's 39 percent success rate.
An opening set chock full of outrageous rallies went Kerber's way at the very end, when she held serve for 6-5 with an error-forcing dropshot, then claimed the break in the very next game with a clean winner from that shot.
The eye-catching rallies continued all the way through the second set as well, where Kerber was up a break twice, at 2-0 and 4-2. Each time, Sorribes Tormo pulled back on serve, and the Spaniard saved a match point at 5-4 by drawing an error with a deft backhand slice.
After getting out of that jam and holding for 5-5, Sorribes Tormo pounced, while the Kerber dropshot suddenly failed twice in a row to lose serve. An angled backhand winner by Sorribes Tormo converted her first set point at 6-5, and the match was dragged into a decider.
A winning lob gave Sorribes Tormo a break in the first game of the third set, but Kerber broke the Spaniard three times in a row, eventually charging to 5-2. Kerber was unable to serve out the match at 5-3, but she closed out the match with a love break in the next game, ending the high-quality tilt with a backhand winner.
Another gripping three-set tussle took place on No.1 Court, but on this occasion, an upset did occur, as Sorana Cirstea of Romania outlasted another former World No.1, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4.
"I think it was a really great match," Cirstea told the press, after her win. "I think we were mostly playing on winners, not on unforced errors, and I think was a great quality match. It got the people really involved."
Former Top 25 player Cirstea came into Wimbledon with a resurgent 2021 already behind her -- she won her first title in nearly 13 years in Istanbul, reached the final of Strasbourg (losing to Barbora Krejcikova), and made the round of 16 at Roland Garros.
After starting the season ranked outside the Top 80, Cirstea is up to World No.45, and she will continue her charge back up the rankings after surprising No.12 seed Azarenka, coming back from a break down in the final set in the process.
It was a breakthrough victory for Cirstea, as she had lost all three of her previous meetings with Azarenka, which had all come at Grand Slam events, and twice previously at Wimbledon. But this was the first meeting between the 31-year-olds since way back in 2009.
"I had a very difficult opponent in front of me," Cirstea said. "I played Vika a few times. She [makes you] very uncomfortable because she plays very aggressive. She always tries to be in charge. She has a very, very good game. So that's why I say I think it was a great match, because to beat Vika you always have to come and play your best tennis. She will not give it to you."
Each player broke serve five times in the clash overall, but after splitting sets it was Cirstea who ultimately took charge late in the decider. Azarenka broke Cirstea in the first game of the third set but the Romanian pulled back to parity at 3-3 with a variety of line-clipping rallies.
After a forehand winner gave Cirstea a 4-3 lead, she took advantage of two double faults in the next game to break Azarenka at love. But with Cirstea serving for the match at 5-3, Azarenka saved two match points, then broke the Romanian again after firing a forehand into the corner, and the 12th seed found herself back on serve.
However, serving to stay in the match, Azarenka started the next game with a double fault, and she quickly found herself down 0-40 and facing three match points. Azarenka saved one with a forehand winner, but Cirstea forced an error on her fourth match point overall, as she notched her first win over Azarenka at last.
"The key was in the third set when I was down 3-1," Cirstea said. "I said, 'Okay, Sorana, let's just play every single point. Does not matter the score. Just play the point. Do not play the score, do not play the match, do not play the games.'''
"And I think that helped me a lot, especially after I lost that game at 5-3, and I was quite chill," Cirstea continued. "I said, 'Okay, one point at a time. Nothing happened. I'm in the match, I'm 5-4 up. Okay, I'm going to play every point and try my best each shot.'"